As many as 25 BBC staff are in line for the sack over the continuing phone-in row, according to reports.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the broadcaster's director general, Mark Thompson, is set to wield the axe after discovering that the rigging of telephone competitions was common practice at the BBC.

A spokeswoman for the corporation said she was unable to comment on the report but said that a statement on the issue would be released "this week".

She added that the "legal ramifications" meant that individuals could not be discussed but that a general response to the situation would be available today or tomorrow.

According to the newspaper, rigging of competitions was "so endemic" that BBC staff even chose the name for a new cat on the children's show Blue Peter, despite viewers having taken part in a competition to name the animal.

It claims that the January 2006 contest entries were ignored and that the name 'Socks' was chosen by staff instead.

The latest claims come after broadcast union Bectu yesterday accused the broadcaster of making a "sacrificial lamb" out of producer Leona McCambridge, who was sacked from her BBC 6Music job for alleged gross misconduct.

Ms McCambridge was axed for her alleged involvement in the use of fake contestants in competitions on The Liz Kershaw Show.

A major internal BBC investigation was triggered by the phone-in scandals earlier this year which marred all of the major broadcasters.

In July Mr Thompson said a "zero tolerance" approach would be taken to instances of editorial breaches and announced a mandatory training programme for 16,500 staff.

20/09/2007 10:55:12